Dear Communities of faith in the Nakonha:Ka Regional Council:
With the provincial reopening plan in full swing, and churches across Quebec making plans to have face-to-face worship again, our YaYA leadership team wanted to highlight a few recommendations for churches to consider with regard to children, youth and families. We are all children of God, and worship should be as safely accessible as possible for people of all ages.
It may be that your community of faith rarely hosts children or youth, but when discussing the re-opening in your context please keep your heart and mind open to the brave young families who bring small children to worship. This can be a stressful experience in the best of times. During a pandemic, for some families, it might mean that they are completely unable to participate in a worship experience.
It may be that, in your community, a parallel program such as Children’s Church or Sunday school or Youth Group is not possible. It may be that worship must be done all together and that families must stay in their assigned spaces. In this case, activities to makes worship more accessible for all ages is a priority you may wish to emphasize. Consider building an activity kit or a busy bag for children to enjoy in their families designated spot. Perhaps your church is considering out-door children’s programs, or using a larger hall for distancing.
When developing your re-opening plan, keep these good ideas in mind:
- Connect with your faith community’s reopen church team and make sure they are considering children and youth as they make plans.
- Consult with ministry personnel and other staff of your faith community as well as parents/guardians, provincial guidelines, and Regional staff and guidelines.
- Evaluate all your current policies and procedures. What needs modification for a “new normal,” including online, face-to-face or a hybrid model ministry? Adapt your policies and guidelines.
- Make sure a deep cleaning of everything and everywhere is done. Get rid of items that can’t be sanitized (Bring those stuffed animals home and wash them in hot water and hang them on the clothes line and keep them at home until the pandemic is over)
- Stock up on supplies such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, disposable masks, non-contact thermometers. Masks are not recommended for children under 2 years old, and may be scary or unwise when working with those with varying abilities. You might consider those vinyl shields that allow your face to be seen and your voice to be clear. Masks are required in indoor spaces for all participants over 12, and recommended for children who can wear them.
- Imagine as many outdoor activities as you can for as long as you can. Dress for the weather!
- Limit numbers in each space. Can you use a large church hall rather than individual classrooms?
- Assign and label mats, toys, supplies, busy bags, etc. for each child or invite families to bring their own each week.
- Inexpensive hula-hoops are generally about a metre in diameter. Use those to mark out learning circles. Each child has a hoop and there is a hoop between each child.
- Pre-register attendees and ask them to sign agreements that they will do their best to stay healthy and follow all protocols.
- Minimize drop-off/pick-up congestion in hallways or enclosed spaces.
- Create a cleaning checklist and containers for used vs. sanitized equipment. Clean often.
- Ensure that your volunteers or staff are not in those high-risk categories, including people over 65 years old and people with a compromised immune system. Ask those wonderful long-term teachers and leaders to coach and mentor a young person for a next-generation of leaders.
The safety of church members is a huge priority, but forgetting accessibility and inclusion in our safety plan can exclude vulnerable people. If you have questions, comments or good ideas please contact Shanna Bernier.
Safety measures from Government of Quebec for workers and children: https://www.quebec.ca/en/education/preschool-elementary-and-secondary-schools/etablissements-scolaires-prescolaires-primaires-et-secondaires-dans-le-contexte-de-la-covid-19/safety-measures-for-workers-and-children-in-elementary-schools-and-daycare-services-during-covid-19/